Shea Weber. Shane Doan. Roberto Luongo.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail on Monday morning, Mike Gillis, president and general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, weighed in on three of the bigger names in hockey, central figures in the flux of the hockey team’s off-season roster.
Vancouver remains in the hunt, according to Gillis, who in general disdains multiyear contracts for players 35 or older. But such rules are not set in stone and Gillis chases Doan alongside other teams such as the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.
“We’re one of the teams that are active in trying to pursue him and see if he’d like to play here in Vancouver,” said Gillis in an interview in his office at Rogers Arena on Monday morning. “Not sure of a timeline yet but we’re hopeful we have a chance to convince him to play here.”
Doan turns 36 in October and has played his whole career for the Phoenix Coyotes. In the past three seasons, he has had an average of 55 points, compared with an average of 69 the three seasons before that.
A Doan signing will be expensive, and demand a multiyear deal. Despite Vancouver’s aversion to such contracts for older players, Gillis said Doan’s availability as a free agent is a rare occurrence.
“There are specific situations that cause you, not to reconsider the guidelines, but present a different set of a facts, a different set of circumstances, that take you outside of those guidelines.”
The Sicamous, British Columbia-born defenceman, a restricted free agent, has accepted a $110-million, 14-year offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers, a deal many in hockey expect the Nashville Predators to match, with a deadline of Wednesday night to decide. Gillis, earlier in July, spent three hours with Weber and his agent, at Weber’s offseason home in Kelowna, near Sicamous.
Gillis believed he would not be able to snag Weber with a long-term offer sheet, concluding that the Nashville Predators would match any proposed contract. He said the 26-year-old defenceman was focused on a big-money, long-term deal, under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement rules.
“Our issue was how do you get the player,” said Gillis. “Our issue wasn’t the money. It’s how do you actually get the player on your team. Our feeling was that a contract with term probably wouldn’t allow that to happen.”
Asked why he didn’t take a flier like Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren, Gillis measured his answer.
“Well.” He paused, took a breath. “I guess that’s one school of thought. To me I’d rather be trying to accomplish things rather than, ‘Okay, throw something up in the air and hope that it sticks.’
“We threw around trade possibilities. We threw around every possible scenario. I spoke to him [Weber] about every possible scenario, and his agent. At the end of the day, I guess Philadelphia was prepared to take that chance.”
On the B.C. connection, Gillis said, “We hear constantly, people want to tweet and blog, every player who has been born in British Columbia wants to play for the Vancouver Canucks.” Gillis, the former player agent, said the factors that influence a decision for a player, especially in free agency, are myriad, particularly because players have only rare opportunities to truly test their market value as a professional.
In the end, with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement coming, possibly with contract term limits, Weber went for the money.
“It was quite clear, at the end of the day, what the objectives were,” said Gillis. “To take advantage of the current system, and to maximize his economic return, which is absolutely fair, which he’s completely entitled to.”
Gillis hasn’t spoken with his former starting goaltender in a while and stated, in general, “there’s nothing new to report.”
He suggested more activity could percolate in mid-August. “As you get closer to the season, things begin to pick up as teams see their needs.”
On the market for Luongo, there have been real deals on the table. Gillis hasn’t been motivated to move, though he suggested that could evolve with time.
“We’ve been given solid offers. Nothing we would do today. We’re going to continue the process with the teams that are interested.”